Palace justification for Marcos' F1 trip scored

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 05 2022 02:06 PM | Updated as of Oct 05 2022 10:30 PM

President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos watches the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Singapore. Photo from the Bongbong Marcos Facebook page
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos watches the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Singapore. Photo from the Bongbong Marcos Facebook page

MANILA — Opposition lawmakers criticized Wednesday Malacanang’s explanation for President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s weekend trip to Singapore to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Tuesday defended Marcos' trip, which included some of the President's relatives.

“No amount of justification that the President was able to talk to some foreign officials at the sideline of the racetrack will diminish the flawed principal purpose of the trip to watch Formula 1 racers even as Filipinos race for survival under the onslaught of escalating inflation,“ Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement.

"Kapag ang pondo ng bayan ay ginamit sa anumang okasyon, lalong lalo na sa paglakbay sa ibang bansa na hindi naman opisyal, ay talagang relevant na tanong, magkano at saan ginamit ang perang galing sa kaban ng bayan," the lawmaker said in a separate interview on TeleRadyo.

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Marcos on Monday night confirmed his trip to Singapore, saying he was able to meet new business friends.

"They say that playing golf is the best way to drum up business, but I say it's Formula 1. What a productive weekend! It was fulfilling to have been invited alongside several dignitaries and to have met new business friends who showed that they are ready and willing to invest in the Philippines," he said.

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Bersamin, a former Supreme Court Chief Justice, said that while the trip was not an official visit and was made during the President’s private time, Marcos was still able to perform his function as Philippine leader by engaging with dignitaries and business leaders who were similarly invited to the event.

He said the issue of who paid for the trip was not relevant.

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro rejected Bersamin's statement.

“How can this be irrelevant, when it seems that millions have been spent of taxpayers' money for a junket of the president's family and friends masquerading as a 'productive' trip for the country to justify its extravagance?" Castro said in a statement.

Marcos was accompanied in the trip by First Lady Liza Marcos, their son Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos, and his cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez, among others.

Malacanang confirmed the trip only early Monday morning, following a social media post by a Singapore official showing Marcos in one of the photos.

Activist Renato Reyes Jr. had urged the administration to be more transparent about the details of the trip especially if the Filipino people are the ones footing the bill. 

“First news reports that came out, it was a private jet. Then later on, we saw posts on Facebook saying that it was a Philippine Air Force Asset which was used. It was P2 bilion Gulf Stream jet supposedly with command and control capabilities, but was used for a leisure trip to Singapore by a president and his entourage,” said Reyes, secretary general of BAYAN. 

“Who are paying for the other people on the President’s entourage? His son was there. The House speaker was there. Another member of the House was also seen at the place. They had plus ones. So who are paying for these?"

Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez however sees nothing wrong with Marcos' trip as long as it benefited the country.

He said business deals which could benefit the country are sealed in “lighter” situations like the F1 instead of formal meetings. 

"Light moment like those that was initiated by the president somehow probably can start bilateral talks doing those things as well... In that case much easier mapapadali yung tinatawag natin closure nung inyong contracts,” Fernandez said in an interview.

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